FROM MY COUCH—Is there such a thing as “really apathetic”? Because that’s how I felt about last night’s loss to the 76ers in a classic sequence of foolery and brain freezes.
C.J. Watson should know better than to pass the ball to Omer Asik in must-make free throw situations.
Omer should split at least one of those free throws.
But ultimately, what it all means is that we get a little more couch time with our Chicago Bulls in what has morphed into the daftest and most awkward Chicago sports fan experience of my life. It might have started when Jay Cutler fell in the NFL Championship game one year ago and then followed up another season with a season-ending injury, dashing a realistic shot at the Super Bowl.
Then the Blackhawks’ watch their best player, Jonathan Toews, deal with concussion issues near the playoffs and see Martin Hossa go down with a blast thought could have dented a dump truck.
And then Rose. And the Noah. And then…
But the matchup with the 76ers really never should have been this close as the Bulls played down to their level and couldn’t hit shots.
Carlos Boozer’s sizzling one for 11 (three points) is the kind of amnestied effort that many of us have come to expect. Actually, I’m fairly pleased with the type of season Boozer put together: He was healthy and somewhat productive comparable to his career averages. But, I was always certain he was a bit of a stats stuffer who never makes important plays in important games. And Thursday’s effort epitomized Boozer.
A Flawed Philosophy
With only Rip Hamilton and Boozer to score, he wilted. Of course some sports writers will continue to praise Boozer as if he were an important asset for the Bulls next season, but that’s incomprehensible given the sample size we now have with him. He really isn’t that important for the Bulls, considering many of his baskets are made 10 feet out from the basket on isolation pivot sets.
He seems to put up numbers against weaker competition and doesn’t particularly excel with Rose in the lineup. I can go a step further and wonder that because his physical skills have declined so much in the past two years, it has put an even greater burden on Rose to score at the rim. Boozer simply isn’t a good finisher.
Whereas Gibson, who does have a decent vertical and good quickness, gives Rose more liberty to drive and dump off in traffic. Ideally the Bulls will be able to keep Taj Gibson, but they won’t because they are capped out. Gibson is one of your biggest trade assets and so is Omer Asik, as you can’t continue to cling to the idea of “depth is important” when your frontline isn’t talented enough.
This has always been a flawed philosophy because if your starting five is talented enough, you should never want the backups in the game. You never wanted CJ Watson in the game more than Rose, nor Ronnie Brewer than Luol Deng. But when it came to Omer for Joakim or Taj for Boozer, you didn’t think the Bulls were as vulnerable.
Trading Taj Gibson
Fans bought in: “WE HAVE SO MUCH DEPTH—THE BEST BENCH IN THE LEAGUE!”
That’s like saying we have the best house in a bad neighborhood. It's like saying your quarterback is Tim Tebow. It’s like saying that your girlfriend only looks good when she wears baggy clothes.
Fans should have been saying “WE HAVE DERRICK ROSE! WE HAVE THE BEST REBOUNDING AND DEFENSIVETEAM IN THE NBA. AND…and…um…WE HAVE DERRICK ROSE!”
So, aside from looking back, here’s what John Paxson and Gar Foreman should do with this Bulls team in the offseason:
First off, fans need to understand there are no major moves to be had (unless Dwight Howard mysteriously changes his mind and wants to come to the Bulls). There are no free agent signings. Understand that? They don’t have any more room under the cap.
If you’re going to amnesty Carlos Boozer, make sure you have your sights on a star who can fill that spot—not just a free agent who gets paid like one (see Carlos Boozer and David Lee). More realistically, if you believe you can make another run at the title with Boozer, you’ll need to trade Gibson and Omer Asik and damn the depth.
Gibson will want too much money to remain a Bull. I would consider trading him for Drew Bledsoe, the dynamic and explosive point guard for the LA Clippers. The team is loaded with point guards and can use the backup depth and smart rebounding and defensive instincts that Gibson offers. It’s a win-win for both teams because the Bulls also get their primary point guard for the 2012-2013 season.
Rose won’t play the majority of next season and will simply not have his explosiveness back yet. And no one should ask him to do just that from the start.
Bledsoe, while smaller than Rose, is sort of like Baron Davis before he stopped liking basketball. He has an
explosive first step, great vertical, remarkable strength and a unique ability to finish in traffic. But why he has only averaged 3 and 3 thus far in his career?
He is playing behind Chris Paul and under Vinny DelNegro—not exactly the basketball mentor you want with your prodigiously talented point guard. The Clippers also run a pretty awful offense (DelNegro) and don’t run enough to use the talent they have.
The Bulls could use his speed and athleticism in Rose’s void. It might be an opportunity for Thibodeau to mold another talented point guard (Rose, Rondo) and pair him with up with Rose when teams are overloading on the two.
Options B, C and D: Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks, Rodney Stuckey of the Detroit Pistons (more of a combo) or cherry picking something off the Washington Wizards. (Would Denver ever ship Ty Lawson for that kind of package?)
But the Bulls will still be without a star, and this is where holding onto Omer makes sense as the NBA nears next year’s trading deadline. Big men like Omer are held at a premium and seeing that Monta Ellis was shipped for an always injured Andrew Bogut, you can see why teams might oversell to get size.
There are difficult realities to face this offseason. It began when Rose went down. A new era started, but I don’t think fans are ready to hear that.
Contact Mike Mitchell at email@example.com.